Finding 1000 True Fans

The conversation surrounding The Millions’ interview with a book pirate is fascinating.

Within the civil and well-written discussion, someone linked to The Technium, a blog by Kevin Kelly, and his post about gathering (and nurturing) 1000 True Fans. He posits that an artist can make a living wage if they cultivate a small but dedicated fan base and have direct interaction with their customers.

Later, in a follow-up post, he provides some of the monetary information he received from artists attempting this method. The results were not really a living wage.

However, both of his posts were written in 2008, and dovetail nicely with that other 2008 classic Here Comes Everybody. Now, since it’s 2010(!), and mobile and Web technologies are even more a part of everyone’s lives, surely there is someone making a living wage off their work through direct fandom.

The two examples of cultivating fandom that I can think of (Coelho and Doctorow) are also dependent on the old media systems as a launching pad and support structure. I’m betting there are some self-published or digital-only authors who have nailed this formula for supporting their work.

Jaron Lanier, a musician featured in Kelly’s post, has been looking for musicians who fit the following criteria:

The musician’s career is not a legacy of the old system (such as Radiohead). The musician has not merely gotten a lot of exposure, but is earning a living wage. I’ll define a living wage as a predictable income sufficient to raise a child. Finally, most of the musician’s income derives from sources that would still be robust in an “open” world that is highly friendly to massive, unregulated file sharing. These include live performances, paid ads on the musician’s website, merchandising, and paid downloads (like iTunes), but does not include label contracts, movie soundtrack placement, and other revenue streams that rely on old, declining media.

If you know of any authors who fit Jaron Lanier’s definitions (or if you are one), leave a comment! Let us know how it’s done.

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